"Could this argument be any dumber?"
That's how I began a column over a month ago in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. My point was that by making it an ideological priority to deny the Islamic nature of Islamic terrorism, the
One month later, the answer to my rhetorical question -- "Could this argument be any dumber?" -- is, on the one hand, absolutely yes. On the other hand, maybe not.
Let's start with the dumber part. Ever since the
Indeed, the just-concluded
"No religion is responsible for terrorism," the president proclaimed, "people are responsible for violence and terrorism."
Now obviously, there's some truth to this. We judge people more by their actions than their beliefs. But reasonable people also recognize that our actions often have a causal relationship with our beliefs. This is hardly a controversial -- or even debatable -- insight. Orthodox Jews don't avoid bacon because it tastes bad; they do so because they're kosher. One cannot intelligently discuss why Mother Theresa helped the poor without referring to her faith. And one cannot discuss why the Islamic State burns, rapes and enslaves people without taking their religious beliefs into account.
In an essay for the
The thousands of young men (and women) abandoning the West to join the apocalyptic project of the Islamic State are not doing so simply because they are murderers or petty criminals looking for a convenient excuse. (In the current issue of The Atlantic,
By insisting that religious violence is an oxymoron, Obama, Kerry and their spinners are saying that religion can only be a force for good (a view many on the left loudly insist is not the case, at least when it comes to Christians in America). This is obvious nonsense.
And that brings us to the silver lining to Obama's stubborn refusal to speak plainly about the plainly obvious. As I said at the outset, when you deny a given truth, you force people to explain why the truth is a given. Nearly everyone agrees the earth is round, but if you meet someone who says it's flat, you're forced to explain -- with facts and logic -- why it's not flat.
Obama's flat-eartherism on radical Islam is clearly an embarrassing failure in deterring Islamists, but it is forcing serious people to think more deeply about the challenges we face. It's not the debate Obama wants, but it's valuable nonetheless.